Improving Accessibility Towards The Blind

This is not the official website for Reading and Radio Resource, Dallas but it aims to give you an inside look into the troubles that plague blind people as well as how the Reading and Radio services can help. It also answers some common questions about the blind to put the myths to bed!

Reading & Radio Resource is a charity that’s purpose is to make blind people feel like they aren’t forgotten about in society. It does this in various ways from raising awareness, providing educational materials, corporate understanding of blind people in the workplace and also an extensive library of converted audiobooks. They also run a 24-hour radio show exclusive to those with visual disorders or blindness focusing on the issues that matter to them and ensuring the content is in line with what they are interested in, offering an oasis for many who may not have the resources or support to leave the house often!

It makes its money primarily through donations and their shop which is available to buy audio tracks in various formats while also relying on the kindness of volunteers who give up time to record the books themselves. What sets Reading and Radio Resource apart from other charities is its commitment to making an enjoyable workplace for volunteers who no longer consider it work, but instead a place they can make a difference and connect too.


How Being Blind Affects Day-to-Day Living

These continuous struggles can hinder blind people becoming integrated members of society, instead feeling alone and shying away without help or consideration. With the right accessibility, there should be no issues for blind people to gain decent education to a university standard, work as a high-earning professional, play sports or start families but there are stigmas that can make them feel like they can’t.

Practical Skills
A lack of sight can have a profound impact on the development of children, with a notable difference in progression on development charts by the time the children are 5. It can be particularly troubling for parents to feel like their children are different compared to others and this can lead to a higher percentage of blind children not performing tasks independently in everyday life which impacts later practical skills.

Public Transport
With many forms of public transport being inaccessible or difficult, particularly with trains, trams or buses that have large gaps or dangerous crossings it can make blind people feel like they can’t use them. This, in turn, reduces their independence and causes them to stay home more often. If you encounter blind or visually impaired people on public transport, offer them help!

Technology
While technology is advancing and luckily becoming more accessible, it is not always the first thought in a developer’s mind. This means that the blind community often has to wait for adaptations and cannot use newer technology, particularly those that focus on visual stimulus e.g. virtual or augmented reality. There are apps that are able to convert information for the visually impaired as well as digital devices to help with accessing the internet, but even these are not useful if a website itself isn’t using the key features to make it easily “seeable” by the device.

Eating Out
If you go to a restaurant, the menu needs to be seen, the food is often brought out of hot plates or trays and there are usually a lot of tables to navigate to the bathroom, none of which is very blind friendly. This restricts many blind people and often makes them wonder if it is worth going out and there is very little training for wait staff in how to handle talking or communicating with the blind.

Recent pop-ups and restaurants are now recreating this experience and it gives you insight into what it’s like going out for dinner as a blind or visually impaired individual. One example is Dans Le Noir in London which caters to groups and individuals in their dark or blacked out restaurant where there is no light, and at the entrance, all objects that could illuminate the space are taken away.

Flying
Travelling abroad can be difficult at the best of times and for blind people it can be particularly scary because of the security protocols and entering unfamiliar countries or situations. Aeroplanes for example are not very accessible because their naturally quite crowded with rowed seats and small walkways. Without planning or forethought, planes can be troubling or impossible for many with visual impairments so it is important to follow some of these steps:
- Pre-request assistance from the stewards and let the airline know you are blind ahead of time. This can allow them to seat you in the best position on the plane and allocate cabin crew to assist you. The airline must first approve this to ensure they can accommodate you so often you may get another choice of booking if it is last minute!
- Seeing eye dogs are classed under guide and assistance aids therefore they do not need to be kept in a basket mid-flight and their weight shall not be taken into consideration for your luggage. That being said, you still need to inform the airline prior to your arrival and have a guide dog certification for training. Many airlines also request that you muzzle your guide dog for some of the flight as a health and safety precaution.


Social Impact

One of the key issues that blind or visually impaired people have to deal with is the stigma of disability and the impact that it has on how they are perceived. For example, in many circumstances, a simple fix or addition could adapt processes for a blind person to function normally but people don’t see this and assume that it is the blind person that is incapable. Although it is highly discouraged (and illegal in many cases) in the professional industry nowadays, profiling can mean that a blind person does not get the same employment opportunities, often being turned away unnecessarily.

In addition, due to this profiling it is common for blind people to be less confident with a lower self-esteem which can hinder them in social settings, seeing them left out or struggling to make friends.


Blind Role Models

That being said, for the blind community, there are several celebrities and role models that can be looked up to for inspiration, including blind poet; John Milton who used his blindness to inspire beautiful poetry. World-renowned musicians including: Stevie Wonder, Andre, Bocelli, Ray Charles and Jose Feliciano who are still remembered and successful today. In the corporate and political climates, UK’s David Blunkett and US’ Cyrus Habib are both politicians and professionals who are entirely blind.


Can Blind People Hear Better?

A common question asked about blind people is if they have superhuman hearing as a result and we are here to put this to bed! Voices and steps create mental images and memories in the brain. Many blind people have learned to remember and recognize people by voice or even by walking and like all of us, the blind can sense different emotions in somebody’s tone of voice. This is because they have honed their listening skills and have fantastic hearing in most cases. For example, many piano tuners are blind and this is because they have such acute hearing they can distinguish tones on the piano.

The theory behind this shows that in the visual cortex of the brain, that receives signals from the eyes, activates when the subjects perform their auditory tasks. This shows that blind people use this cortex, which is usually used for visual functions, to perform listening tasks. Blind people cannot hear better than others; they just concentrate more on what they hear and their brain is better adapted to decipher these signals.


The role of Reading & Radio Resource

By providing information in a medium and format that blind people can relate to and understand, the reading and radio services that are provided around Dallas give the blind community a greater self-esteem. It shows that they haven’t been forgotten about and in many cases, can open the door to connecting them with the social or political climate they may have avoided for many years.

One of the other key functions of R & RR is to ensure that blind children get the same education to hopefully boost confidence, encourage learning and allow them to complete their courses without letting the disabilities hinder them. By working with education providers to translate textbooks it shows that the system cares and wants blind people to succeed which is an attitude they will take with them in later life to adulthood.

While Reading and Radio Resource is not the only blind accessible charity, it works incredibly hard to meet its goals and standards for excellent for volunteers as well. So why not contact them and see how you can help the blind community today.